The following words were written days before Shimon Peres, z"l, was hospitalized. Mr. Peres was a true friend of the National Library of Israel, having served as the Honorary Chairman of its Global Forum. May his memory be a blessing.
For 3500 years the Jewish people have been on the stage of history – struggling, creating, philosophizing, renewing, contributing and not fading even in the face of crises and disasters. It has remained one people, dedicated to its Torah and to its Land.
In the Diaspora, it turned towards Jerusalem and in the State of Israel, it made its Land bloom and preserved its Torah. It revived its languages, paid heed to its Ten Commandments and aspired to repair the world. It drew its power from its spirituality, which is embodied in its books.
It is amazing how just a few words express the character of a nation with such astounding precision: "People of the Book."
The book in which the words of the Prophets are inscribed, in which the Ten Commandments are engraved, and books in general: an endless shelf of thought, of reflection, of values, of song, of desire to repair oneself and the world. And thus, how right is the mission that the National Library of Israel has taken upon itself: to renew and deepen the connection between the People of the Book and its books. To renew and transform itself into a vibrant intellectual center bridging the wisdom of generations past to the challenges of the present.
On this long journey, it must be reiterated – the title "People of the Book" is binding. It is not enough to bask in the glory of our ancestors' work. We must diligently toil in these books daily in order to be worthy of the lofty title. We must educate our children to love the book and the intellect. The National Library is a home for all citizens of Israel, Jews and Arabs alike. We must all be open to the culture of our neighbor, the cultures of the region and the cultures of the world. We must give generously of our own, and learn to recognize and appreciate the achievements of others.
In my youth, I worked for many years with the greatest of Israel's leaders in the modern era – David Ben-Gurion. I witnessed him guide the fateful struggle to establish the State of Israel as the book never moved from his hands. When the values embodied in the book always dictate the decisions made, it inspires the path to be taken, providing a compass, the essence of which is that the correct decision must be the moral decision.
I am pleased that the Second Gathering of the Global Forum of the National Library of Israel is convening in Jerusalem, evidence that this important Forum is becoming a regular event in the life of our people and country. The shared study of the book, books in general and of their relevance to contemporary issues is essential to our identity and our shared future.
11 September 2016